Washington D.C. “Bans the Box” – Private Employers Affected

US White House

Washington D.C. is the most recent city to join the “ban the box” movement, and the city has passed “one of the most stringent ban-the-box laws in the nation,” according to a blog by Baker & Hostetler’s Todd Lebowitz. The “ban the box” regulation affects employers (both public and private) who have at least 10 employees in the District of Columbia, and “covers background checks that are performed not only before employment, but also before retention as an independent contractor or as an unpaid intern.”

Titled the Fair Criminal Records Screening Act, the law was signed by the mayor and has to go to Congress for approval before it takes effect.

The blog provides details about the new law. Highlights include:

  • Employers cannot ask about prior criminal convictions until after a conditional offer of employment has been made. And they may also never ask about arrests or criminal accusations that are not pending or did not result in a conviction.
  • Conditional offers may only be withdrawn if there is a “legitimate business reason.”
  • Within 30 days of adverse action, applicants who think employment was denied due to a criminal conviction can ask for all records that were considered by the employer in making the decision, and they may file a complaint with the Office of Human Rights.
  • The Office of Human Rights investigates the violations and imposes penalties.

As with other ban the box laws, there are exceptions. These include:

  • When federal /district laws or regulations require a criminal background check in order to be employed;
  • When the job is “designated by the employer as part of a federal or district government program or obligation that is designed to encourage the employment of those with criminal histories;” and
  • Employment at facilities or with employers that provide programs, services or direct care to minors or vulnerable adults.

As we have recommended before, this is a good time for employers to review and revise their applications if necessary. And given that questions about criminal past cannot be asked either on the application or during interview, affected employers should review their hiring practices to ensure that they comply with the new law. For additional details, we encourage you to read the Baker & Hostetler blog.

Going Back Two Years on a Background Check. Is That Enough?

Taxi driver background check

After assaults on two women earlier this month by a taxi driver in Honolulu, HI, there are new concerns about safety. At issue is background checks done on cab drivers. According to police, the current city ordinance requires that background checks only go back two years. KHON2 in Honolulu reports that several owners of cab companies recently met with members of the Honolulu City Council at a hearing committee to discuss expanding background checks to more than two years.

The length of time a background check has to go back is clearly problematic for many people. In a follow up story to the assaults, KHON2 spoke with Howard Higa, president of The Cab, a taxi company that has over 800 drivers, and asked what requirements are necessary to work as a driver for the company. He responded that they needed a taxi license, insurance and a two year background check.

But Higa added that he would like to see this changed, “In my opinion, there are certain crimes or certain things that drivers have done in the past that should never be forgiven,” Higa said, “and I believe that the background checks should go further back … They should be five, maybe even 10 years.”

Cab companies want to expand the background checks, and some city council members are listening. Calling it a public safety concern, those council members say they will look into expanding background checks. While no resolution has yet been proposed, the subject will be discussed further at the next committee meeting.

Illinois Poised to Enact “Ban the Box” Law Affecting Private Employers

Illinois background check "ban the box"


It is expected that Illinois Governor Pat Quinn will sign new “ban the box” legislation that will remove questions about criminal background history from employment applications. This would expand the state’s existing laws to affect private employers with 15 or more employees, and will also affect employment agencies.


Employers will still be able to conduct background checks, but they will be prohibited from asking about the applicant’s criminal background history until the job interview or when a conditional job offer has been made (if no interviews are conducted). If signed, the law will take effect on January 1, 2015.


As we have noted before, more states and communities are enacting “ban the box” legislation, and it continues to expand to include private employers. If Governor Quinn signs the bill, Illinois will become the fifth state to enact “ban the box” legislation that affects private employers.



New Baltimore “Ban the Box” Law Affects Private Employers


In an update to our blog posted on March, 14, 2014, the city of Baltimore passed a new “ban the box” law that pertains to private employers. Here are the details:

Who does this law affect? Employers with 10 or more full-time equivalent employees. According to the article, “Employment” is defined broadly as “any work for pay” and “any form of vocational or educational training with or without pay.” Further, “employment” includes contractual, temporary, seasonal, or contingent work and work through the services of a temporary or other employment agency”.

What are the prohibitions? According to the National Law Review, the ordinance is broad, as employers are prohibited to obtain “any information in an application’s criminal background” until after making a conditional offer of employment. This means employers cannot ask any kind of question about the applicant’s criminal history or conduct a criminal background check before the conditional offer of employment.

When will it become effective? August 13, 2014

Although the law affects when employers can ask about an applicant’s criminal past, they are not prohibited from “making an employment decision based on an applicant’s criminal history” or from conducting background checks.

“Ban the Box” Legislation Aimed at Private Employers Advances in Illinois

Illinois Ban the Box criminal background check

TV station WAND reported that an Illinois Senate committee voted 11-2 on May 14, 2014 to approve legislation that would prohibit private employers with more than 15 employees to ask about criminal history until after the applicant is determined to be qualified. HB5701 is sponsored by Democrat State Senator Tony Munoz from Chicago, and if passed, would take effect on January 1, 2015.

There are exclusions under the proposal, which include construction, emergency medical services and security-related businesses, as well as jobs that are mandated by law to require background checks.

In October 2013, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed an administrative order that banned state employers from asking about criminal history on applications. The proposal would expand “ban the box” legislation to private employers.

New York City “Fair Chance Act”

NYC Ban the Box Criminal Background

New York City Council is considering a bill that would prohibit New York City employers from asking people about criminal histories on job applications. As part of the expanding “ban the box” movement, the bill would further the reach of current legislation, which prohibits the criminal history question from being on government application, and apply it to all employers.

Referred to as the “Fair Chance Act,” the bill would allow employers to ask about a criminal record only after making a job offer. The New York Daily News reports, “Employers could be hit with $1,000 in damages if they asked about an applicant’s criminal record too soon.” The bill would not affect jobs that require background checks.

Corporate Screening will continue to monitor “ban the box” legislation and will keep you informed of the latest news and updates. As a reminder, employer should regularly review hiring practices to ensure that they follow all local and state laws and guidelines. If you have any questions, our staff is available to assist you.


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